Florida Governor Ron Desantis Wins Big in Partial E-Verify Vote

Newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an event at the Freedom Tower where he name
Joe Raedle/Getty

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis has scored a big — but partial — victory in Florida when a GOP-controlled committee approved a loopholed version of his mandatory E-Verify bill.

The bill survived a committee review with a 4:2 vote on February 11, partly because the amended bill creates several large loopholes for the business groups that fiercely oppose the popular bill.

Employers’ lobbies oppose mandatory use of the federal E-Verify database because it would force employers to exclude illegal immigrants from jobs. Without easy access to illegal workers, employers are pressured to raise wages for Americans who work in construction, hospitality, and agriculture.

So the bill is also opposed by investors’ groups, including the FWD.us group that was founded by billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and which includes a host of other investors in real estate and transportation. FWD.us issued a report acknowledging that the state likely includes 700,000 illegal immigrants, including roughly 440,000 workers.

Some business lobbyists admit that rising wages are a boon for politicians. “Are rising wages good for national politics?” Breitbart News asked January 9 during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of American Business event.

“You’re damn right they are,” responded Tom Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, adding:

They are good for national politics if you’re a politician, for sure. And it’s good for national politics if you want people to feel more engaged in the healthy part of the economy and go out and vote to keep it that way. If you look the other side of your question: ‘Are decreasing wages good for national politics?’ Hell, no.

If you have ten people for every job, you’re not gonna have a drive [up] in wages. [But] if you have five people for every ten jobs, wages are going to go up.”

Desantis’s support for American employees is helping to push up his polling support before his 2022 reelection.

The Miami Herald report on the 4:2 vote said it came after business groups won big loopholes:

The proposal is the strictest of its kind filed this year, as it includes both public and private employers in the mandate, at least initially crossing both the business and agriculture lobbies. Two other bills, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, exempt private employers, who serve as some of the state’s biggest political campaign donors.

The [approved] bill would rescind licenses of businesses who don’t comply and have a state agency report unauthorized workers to immigration authorities.

The bill passed with amendments by committee chair Sen. David Simmons, which carve out casual laborers, independent contractors and the agriculture industry, a large political donor and powerful lobby in Florida.

The bill’s supporters accepted the partial win, according to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper:

“Well, it’s a watered-down version of my bill, that’s for sure,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, who sponsored the measure (SB 664) which originally was similar to what DeSantis sought.

“But look, we’re just getting started here,” he added, saying lawmakers were trying to craft a proposal that could win Senate and House approval.

Big companies, those with 500 workers or more, would have to use some state-approved employment verification system – although not necessarily E-Verify—beginning next year, with smaller firms phased-in by 2022.

Democrats oppose the bill because they oppose curbs on migration. The Tallahassee Democrat reported:

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, sought unsuccessfully to further dilute the E-Verify bill by exempting the health care, construction and restaurant and lodging industries from the requirement.

Desantis has pushed the bill amid strong opposition from the GOP’s donor groups and the Democratic groups. In his January 14 State of the State address, he declared:

Lower-income workers also shouldn’t have their wages depressed by cheap foreign labor. Assuring a legal workforce through E-verify will be good for the rule of law, protect taxpayers, and place an upward pressure on the wages of Floridians who work in blue collar jobs.

We are a state that has an economy, not the other way around. And we need to make sure that our Florida citizens from all walks of life come first.

Desantis’s pro-employee policy is boosting his poll numbers. FloridaPolitics.com reported in October:

Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ first ten months in office are making him universally popular, with a job approval rating of 72 percent, among the highest for any governor in recent history, a new poll from the University of North Florida finds.

— 71 percent support requiring businesses in Florida to use the federal immigration database, E-Verify, to check whether their workers are eligible for employment.

— Only 38 percent support allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, while 59 percent oppose.

A January 2020 poll by Mason-Dixon showed that Desantis is gaining even more support for championing employees over donors. Politico reported January 24 :

DeSantis had a net favorability of 31 points, with 48 percent viewing him positively and only 17 percent negatively. His popularity has soared 26 points since Mason-Dixon’s last survey in October, during his bruising campaign for governor.


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